In some parts of the world, this night begins the ancient Christian three-day observance of Allhallowtide, predated from Celtic harvest festivals such as Samhain, designed as a time to remember those who have died.   All Hallows’ Eve is the evening before All Hallows’ Day (also known as All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar or ‘Hallowmas’).  From the Old English ‘hallowed’ meaning ‘holy’ or ‘sanctified’, it is now usually contracted to the more familiar word Hallowe’en.

Today is also Samhain – Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or “darker half” of the year with celebrations beginning on the evening of 31 October, as the Celtic day began and ended at sunset.  Over time, it is believed that Samhain and All Saints’/All Souls’ influenced each other, and eventually merged into the modern Hallowe’en. 

For many, Hallowe’en is a secular celebration with … carving pumpkins … apple bobbing … visiting haunted attractions … trick-or-treating.

“Trick or Treat!” they shout as front doors are opened and children hold open their bags.  “I’ve got the treats,” I reply “What trick (a song or dance or joke or riddle) can you offer in exchange?”   First comes silence.  Then giggles and happy faces on accompanying parents.   And then, each year, the jokes come.   The dancing feet tap.   The songs erupt.   And the riddles come forth.  “Why is a seagull called a seagull?”   “Because it flies over the sea, and if it flew over a bay it would be called a bagel!”   A little girl, about three, recites her numbers in Spanish.   A little boy says, “I remember you and this house. I’ve got my joke ready for you!”  And he did!

For many, this day is part of their Christian religious observance by … attending church services on All Saints Day on November 1st … lighting candles in remembrance of loved ones … visiting graves and paying their respects to the deceased.

As the last of the little ones leave with treats in their bags and smiles on their faces each year, the door is closed, the outdoor lights are turned off and I spend time reflecting on the innocence, the wonder, the fun of the night in the faces of the children and their accompanying parents.  The candle inside the pumpkin is extinguished, and a wee prayer of gratitude that a spirituality of play is still celebrated as “shadows of a thousand years rise again, unseen and voices whisper in the trees – tonight it’s All Hallow’s Eve!” 

©  June Maffin

It’s still October — soooo OctoBOO!   🙂

© June Maffin

“Shadows of a thousand years” author: Dexter Kozen